A Beijing people’s high court today finally heard journalist Gao Yu’s appeal against the seven-year jail sentence she received in April on a charge of divulging state secrets. Police turned away journalist and diplomats who tried to attend because the court decided to hold the hearing behind closed doors.
Gao Yu reaffirmed her innocence and answered questions from the judge and her lawyers, but no further details of the hearing were made public. Her lawyers, Mo Shaoping and Shang Baojun, said afterwards that the court’s decision would be announced on 26 November. “We condemn the Chinese judicial system’s lack of transparency,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk. “The foreign embassies whose representatives were turned away should publicly protest against the court’s decision to hold a closed-door hearing. ” “We reiterate our call for the release of Gao Yu, who did none of the things she is alleged to have done. Her state of health, which continues to be worrying, constitutes an additional reason for her immediate release.” Aged 71, Gao suffers from a heart ailment and lymphadenopathy, a swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck. Her condition has worsened significantly since her arrest in May 2014 and, according to her lawyers, she had a heart attack last month. Judges had previously rejected her lawyer’s request for an appeal hearing three times since her conviction seven months ago. As the right of appeal is not automatic in China, a judge must first decide whether the request for an appeal hearing submitted by the defendant’s lawyers is admissible. Ranked 176th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, China continues to be the world’s biggest prison for news and information providers, with a total of 107 professional and citizen-journalists currently detained. Chine also continues to operate a massive censorship and propaganda apparatus both within and outside its borders.